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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Participation in Social Networking and KM

Mike Gotta tells us -
A common thread between social networking and KM that strategists should acknowledge is the principle that volunteered participation and resulting contributions are a daily decision employees make – and one that they essentially control."
I largely think of KM as a failure exactly because of the level of effort required for participation and it worries me that Mike sees such a close parallel:
Ultimately, people still make choices on sharing what they know. How do we influence them (if possible) to make choices that directly help co-workers and indirectly help the organization overall when they are not compelled to do so by the structure of their role/task? How do you instill a sense of volunteerism (if that's even the right phrase)? We find ourselves shifting from tooling into the realm of attitude and behavior change (some might include culture change) which are better understood through the lens of psychology, sociology, etc. I agree with Kate that changing culture is difficult but not impossible. Enabling an environment where people are more willing to volunteer above that which they feel is necessary has been one of the intractable challenges faced by industrial-age organizations.
My gut tells me there is something different here now. That participation is different when it's a natural part of how we work, network, etc. But, I do worry about the 90-9-1 Rule and the resulting perception about participation. Much of what works outside of an organization does so because of scale and with 90-9-1, you still have enough participation. Inside an organization, 90-9-1 can be seen as a failure.

What do you think? Is there something different here?


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Tony

I wasn't going to respond to this but . . .

I have a thing about ownership.

My experience in the utilisation of any community based resource, whether it be a database in a workplace or a filing cabinet in a recreation club, is that key to participation is a sense of ownership.

Employees who in some way are given opportunity to contribute are more likely to participate in the use of the resource than those who are not. This axiom works as much in the classroom of a primary school as it does in a NASA mission.

The 90-9-1 rule serves to support this in that those who think they own are those who contribute; those who feel a lack of ownership do not.

Some people simply are self-motivated and quickly acquire a feeling of ownership through this. That's why you and I blog and comment on blogs and also why several billion others do not. Hence the rule. We are in the -1 group.

True to its statistical expression, the 90-9-1 rule also shows, as you pointed out, that within an organisation it's not going to bring success. Yet in other circumstances, the 90-9-1 rule can be turned on its head.

Look at the participation in work socials and gatherings of similar recreational description within an organisation. These succeed in the main because of the feeling that most employees have of ownership in participating.

Translate that to participation on a KM database and you find a different scenario. Many would-be-participants in that situation see the strawberries on the database as Not For Picking.

To encourage participation there not only has to be an open invitation to Pick The Strawberries, but there also has to be a shared feeling of ownership.

Catchya later

Tom Gram said...

Hi Tony:
I don't think participation in web 2.0 is going to be as natural in organizations as in the public sphere. McKinsey has an interesting report out summarizing "Six ways to make Web 2.0 work" based on some survey work they did. One of the findings that i find true is "What's in the workflow is what get's used". From the report:

“Perhaps because of the novelty of Web 2.0 initiatives, they’re often considered separate from mainstream work. Earlier generations of technologies, by contrast, often explicitly replaced the tools employees used to accomplish tasks. Thus, using Web 2.0 and participating in online work communities often becomes just another “to do” on an already crowded list of tasks"

I'm not sure if you can get the report summary without a membership but i blogged on it and include links to the report here:


Tony Karrer said...

Ken - it's interesting to hear your focus on ownership. I somewhat focus on utility and workflow integration. See: really factors in ownership and but I know that's true from change management studies. Time to rethink that formula.

I don't know if I buy that participation in workplace social activities is a good analog - but certainly participation in email ultimately doesn't have to worry about 90-9-1. So, you are right that there's more to it, but I worry that 90-9-1 will often be the case and kill critical mass. Of course, lots and lots of examples of things like wikis working out very well even in small organizations.

Dang this adoption stuff ... so complicated ... so hard to predict.


Tom thanks for the information about the report. Good stuff.

I definitely need to think through all of this, but the idea that it's replacing another way of doing it as opposed to adding an alternative way is a very interesting thought. Wiki adoption can be killed when someone insists on email around the same information for editing. So, there's definitely some kind of threshold here as well.

Wow, do those old formulas (based on studies) seem rather simplistic now given these complexities.

Any ideas on better forumlas?

V Yonkers said...

What I am finding in my research is that Ken is correct: the more ownership individuals feel towards knowledge, a product of their work, and/or the tools that they use, the more apt they are to share that knowledge outside the boundaries of their job/team/group and/or use the tool.

The group I am looking at had a project management tool given to them. Outside of the tools they are given by the organization, workers are not expected to use other technology (unless it is approved by the organization). As a result, new tools are just an extension of what they are currently using and yet another "something" to learn how to use when their current tools are doing the job just right, thank-you very much! As a result, they initially use the new tool (as instructed) then when they can demonstrate they put enough effort in and the tool isn't working (as the Manager decides) they stop using it.

I think there needs to be a basket of tools that employees can use, a process for groups to decide the protocols for using the new technologies, and a way to personalize the use of the new tools to meet the need of the worker (rather than telling them how they should use it).